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Does AdSense Suck for Bloggers?

Posted By Darren Rowse 8th of January 2007 Adsense 0 Comments

Nik Cubrilovic picks up on Guy Kawasaki’s posting his revenue and concludes that

AdSense for bloggers sucks, the click-through rates are too low, the advertising is not relevant enough and readers of blogs are more accustomed to blocking-out the ads – all this results in a very low CPM rate.’

While I don’t have time for a detailed post on this (I’m supposed to be packing as I write this) I would say that Nik’s conclusion is pretty spot on…. when it comes to Guy Kawasaki’s blog.

Guy writes to a pretty tech savvy audience (who tend to not click ads), he writes on a fairly broad range of topics (AdSense would have trouble honing in on what ads to serve him) and he doesn’t generally write about products or specific services (again making it hard to get him high paying and relevant ads).

As a result I’m not surprised that Guy was earning relatively small amounts from his blog from AdSense (when he was using it).

However – just because Guy’s blog doesn’t make much money from AdSense doesn’t mean that it sucks for all blogs. In fact I’ve surveyed my readers three times on their AdSense earnings (here, here and here) and while the poll showed the majority of bloggers don’t make much from AdSense it also showed that some definitely do.

Llast time I did the survey 24% of respondents said they earn over $500 a month (some quite considerably more) and a further 21% earned over $100 for the month). I would suspect that the vast majority of those had less traffic than Guy.

How can this be so?

From my own personal experience of blogging and from watching others I would guess that the majority of those earning more than Guy did would be doing so because of a number of factors:

  • Topic – more focussed and possibly on a more commercially viable topic (ie product related). This leads to higher paying ads and higher relevancy of ads (and higher click through rates).
  • Readership – while Guy’s readership is probably quite aware of what an ad is and isn’t and will actively avoid them – in my experience the average web user (the non blogging/web 2.0/geek crowd) is not as adverse to clicking ads.
  • Ad Positioning/Design – I can’t comment on how Guy had his ads positioned and designed – but it can be the difference between great and terrible AdSense performance.

Of course I’m not suggesting Guy change his topic, readership or blog design. However this might help explain why he didn’t earn as much as other bloggers are from AdSense.

How else could Guy Monetize his Blog?

Let me explore a few options:

Indirect Income Streams – Ultimately the way Guy should (and probably is) monetizing his blog is indirectly by building his own profile. In a sense he’s advertising himself and as a result is building a loyal audience for future books, speaking engagements and consulting work. More on indirect methods of earning money from a blog here.

Private Sponsorship – I think a better model for Guy to earn money from his blogs would be private sponsorship or a privately arranged CPM campaign. He still could have problems with this however because of his broad topic – but if he could find someone who had a product or service that was relevant or that matched his readership demographic he could be onto a good thing with his readership levels.

Affiliate Programs? – Another possible revenue stream that would probably do well for Guy would be affiliate marketing. The products that he promoted would need to be of a high quality, products that he’d personally used and genuinely recommended and he’d have to be careful about pushing them too hard – however if he found the right products I suspect his loyal readership would react well it (especially with his ability to sell) – and if he picked the right product (of a high value) he could earn some nice coin form it too.

Other Ad ProgramsText-Link-Ads would do well on Guy’s blog as it’s got a good SE ranking. I suspect they’d earn more than what AdSense did each month. Similarly BidVertiser, Performancing Partners and either Feedburner’s Ad network or TLA’s Feedvertising would be good ways to monetize his RSS feeds (nb: some affiliate links in this paragraph).

Again – it’s the indirect money making methods that I suspect Guy is focussing upon most and will ultimately do best with (unless he turns his blog into a product blog).

Update: just checked and Guy does use Feedburner’s Ad Network in his feed already.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. In my opinion and in my experience, adsense is more like icing on the cae, it’s doesn’t make up the whole cake, hell it makes up a tiny layer of the cake, but it does add a small amount of income. Myself I branch out and get more reliable sources of income to make up the body of the cake.

  2. I sure don’t make much from my Adsense, but I too write on many topics. I guess the question is why are you blogging? To make money? Or because you enjoy it?? I blog because I enjoy it, making a little money from it is just a nice bonus (of course more money would be great too!).

  3. Aimee, I’m sure that most Pro Bloggers blog because they love to blog first. But as with any job Pro Bloggers need to pay their bills too, so we have to find ways of making money. Like you said more money would be great and that’s how everyone is .

    I’m happy making enough to pay for my home, car and monthly expenses, I’m happier when I make more though.

  4. I think there was something on the Adsense site which went along the lines of: Ask yourself if your site/blog would exist without Adsense. We asked ourselves that question and the answer was: ‘yes’.

    So we didn’t implement it on our blog. Instead we have developed our own ad systems, the first of which is Travel Tag It (aimed at the travel and vacation industries). http://www.traveltag.it

    It seems pretty rare in our field (travel) to not have Adsense on our blog, but we just couldn’t go with it on our blog, for a myriad of reasons.

  5. Aimee: I blog because I enjoy it and I want to help people, but I also like to eat ;) I’d like to think I could earn a living from doing something that I love and that also benefits others.

    Personally, I make very little on AdSense, and at the moment text-link-ads are bringing in about 3 times as much for me.

  6. I am finding that (for me) that there is more a market in affiliate marketing. I do use Google Adsense, but not really for the intention to make money from it, but rather it seems logical to use it because when Google indexes my pages and sees that I am using it, (this is probably just a myth) I would like to believe that Google gives me a few more credits towards a better listing in the SERP’s compared to a site with identical backlinks, identical PR, and identical content…

    I receive quite a bit of traffic to a few of my sites (not all but a few) and I don’t have any expectations any more of making a lot of money from the service. In fact, I am tempted to remove Adsense all together. If I am trying to sell someone an Apple iPod, the last thing I want to do is send my customer somewhere else to buy it and have Google pay me .25c for the referral.

    I am not bashing Google Adsense at all. I think it is an awesome program. However, if you don’t have the right content for it, it won’t work…

  7. It took over a year to get to this point, but I’m now receiving a check from Adsense every month. I tried other forms of advertising but so far Adsense is the only one working out. I think it helps to have a large readership and to focus on a niche. I also think it takes time for one’s efforts to be rewarded.I know Adsense isn’t for everyone, but it’s certainly working for me.

    I blog because I enjoy it, first and foremost. On most days my blog takes an hour or two to update. The earnings from Adsense (and a surprisingly well received tip jar) have made it easier to justify the time spent blogging and away from my regular writing gigs.

  8. have you looked at Guy’s blog?

    – I couldn’t even find the ads
    – his layout is awful – huge long posts, one after another on the home page. one of the longest pages I’ve seen

    His pagestats aren’t actually that high either, so he wouldn’t have made a fortune anyway.

  9. Darren is right – it’s all about the audience but there’s a little corollary to that. It’s all about the audience but you have to stay focused on your topic.

    My wife and I have special interest blogs where the CTR is well above what most people would consider to be a reasonable rate and we get that very high CTR because:

    1. We give the readers what they want – we know why they come to our blogs and we know where they come from so we give them genuine information and even plenty of pretty pictures too.

    2. We make sure that we naturally blend in the keywords that will pull in the right Adsense ads and

    3. We stay very focused on the topic. We don’t wander off and discuss what other people are saying on their blogs – we don’t waffle on about what the kids are doing and we don’t have a blog roll so that people have some other place they can go rather than hitting the ads.

    4. And we don’t try to trick the readers by making the ads look like links buried in the text. On one of the best CTR blogs we have normal affiliate advertising and one Adsense tower over in the right hand column and that’s it.

  10. *
    Hello Darren & All !

    ( FIRST — Darren, finish packing so that You & V can enjoy some wonderful time together away from this light box * )

    Now, I had just read this story elsewhere (regarding GUY) and was going to contact you about it when I saw that you were on top of it already ;)

    Thanks Darren for informing your broad reach of readers that this guy was not optimizing his business.

    Maybe these types of stories will have some future policy effect on Googles terms & conditions and acceptance of new members into the Adsense service.

    Take Care & Enjoy your vacation Darren !!!

  11. I think ad performance heavily depends on your blog topic. If people visit your blog looking for product related information, then of course your contextual ads will do well.

    In a way, Adsense gives the visitors what they are looking for. I like adsense ads as a publisher and web user. I often click on ads because I’m looking for a specific product or topic. Well-targeted ads alleviate the web surfing process by displaying relevant content to the user.

    If your site doesn’t have good ads, then visitors must perform search queries to find more information. I believe ads complement the search query process. Publishers are rewarded for guiding users to relevant content, and visitors get what they want fast. It’s a win-win situation.

    stuart – I totally agree with staying highly focused on your topic, but it’s also okay to switch up the perspective now and then. Maybe write a post that reaches out to a new audience, yet still fits into your blog’s mission. Your readers won’t get bored, and you’ll pick up new visitors and maybe even return visitors in the process.

  12. Phil, I was under the impression that you weren’t allowed to have TextLinkAds on the same blog as Adsense. Am I mistaken about that?

  13. Barbara it is fine to have text-link-ads and adsense on the same pages, in fact they are totally different from each other. It would be a problem with two providers of contextual ads like Adsense and YPN for instance.

    When I started with Adsense on my blog I did wrong what could be done wrong and I learned over time until I found the placement and type of ad that gives me great success with Adsense.

    Guy could try and emphasize certain passages in his article, don’t have the adsense strings that have to be added at hnad but surely someone else will know and add them here.

  14. I just read this post minutes after publishing my 2006 earnings (I blog for living now, wouldn’t like to call myself a “problogger” right now).

    It just made me think that once upon a time these kind of thoughts (Adsense sucks for bloggers) used to run in my head back when i was a person who reads about Darren Rowse, Weblogs Inc, etc….

    He would read their tips and inspirational stories and instead of implementing them, he’d go blame Adsense for not earning him a buck or two a day.

    Man, i was such a loser.


  15. […] More coverage and discussion at Problogger.net. The text ad above is a BlogKits Blog Entry Ad Sample. Refresh page to see new ad. […]

  16. Enjoy the vacation, Darren. On point as usual. A couple points I’d like to jump in on.

    First (and perhaps a huge point) Guy Kawasaki is a great fellow, a fine writer and a person I like reading. However he’s a darn poor exemplar of what might or might not be done to monetize a blog … he has world-wide name recognition, he’s a ‘real money’ millionaire many times over and he’s a best selling author. Using Guy as an example is a bit like using Paris Hilton as an example (assuming she could construct a sentence to follow another).

    Second, I truly hope people read your initial comments about the importance of the niche … and Stuart’s comments as well, my wife and I have ‘specialized’ blogs with experience very similar to Stuart and his spouse. AdSense does _not_ such for bloggers at all …. if you are writing about subjects people want to buy … as opposed to writing angry letters to their elected representatives. about an injustice Secondly, all bloggers don’t avoid clicking ads … I’ve clicked plenty on OPB’s (Other People’s Blogs) … when the ad was about something I wanted to buy, or needed to research. So again, writing for your own needs is great, that’s the whole purpose of the medium … but don’t expect to monetize that which people don’t spend money on.

  17. Darren

    While agreeing with your comment, I think Gary should be more optimistic than he sounds.

    * He has gone from zero to Technorati top 50 in less than 12 months.
    * He has made almost £3k, also in his first year.

    If I recall your earlier postings, it was several years before you made this level of income.

    If his Adsense growth has continued at a steady rate, and making it straightline rather than exponential, he will be making around $450 each month now – already getting close to the upper quartile of your survey. Not at all shabby after a single year.

    In 12 months time he will be up to around $1000 a month, and $9000 annually.

    I also see that he is averaging only around one posting per working day.

    I think he has done OK, and – in addition to making some changes – just needs to be patient.


  18. Julian, Guy Kawasaki is a millionaire venture capitalist. He was already famous before the Technorati Top 50.

    I don’t think he’s that worried about it. ;)

  19. The truth about Kawasaki is he’s just like the other 54,900,000 bloggers out there…

    He’s not concerned really about making money, he is either blogging for passive income reasons (book, speaking), or he just likes to write.

    So think about that for a moment. Let’s not assume that all bloggers want to make money, or have the drive to make money. They don’t.

    Most just “would like” to have a few extra bucks in their pocket. Those bloggers don’t care about reading this excellent blog. They should, but they simply don’t care.

    Last point, taking all I’ve said above, you have to understand that someone who doesn’t care about making money isn’t going to optimize an adsense ad, are they? Nope.

    So Adsense “outta the box” and untouched doesn’t work well for them. Great tool, just doesn’t work for low-traffic bloggers.

  20. […] Does Adsense Suck for Bloggers – This was Darren Rowse’s take on Guy Kawasaki’s complaint about Adsense. […]

  21. I believe that his ad placement was crap also.

  22. […] Well finally, Adsense sucks for bloggers! The experts say so. Some of you may know that I am NOT a big fan of AdSense. I’ve written plenty of negative comments on this and I referred quite alot to Problogger, which is s blog that specializes in ‘helping bloggers earn money’, and refers quite allot to AdSense and gives all kinds of hints and tips on how to set this up specifically for your blog (among other things). But I read this post on Problogger and it would seem that there’s a few respectable bloggers out there who feels that AdSense doesn’t really add any value to their blog…or rather…bank account. […]

  23. […] I think more accurately, as other bloggers have noted, Guy simply did not monetize his blog properly (though it is worth noting the he probably doesn’t care–his blog is more about selling Brand Guy than it is about making money directly) . AdSense is simply not a great choice for a blog like Guy’s. From Darren Rowse: Guy writes to a pretty tech savvy audience (who tend to not click ads), he writes on a fairly broad range of topics (AdSense would have trouble honing in on what ads to serve him) and he doesn’t generally write about products or specific services (again making it hard to get him high paying and relevant ads). […]

  24. I agree with Darren, but I would add one more thing to the list:

    Searchers vs. Readers – the people who click on ads are often NOT readers (as in regular visitors) of the site. They found the site in a search, and maybe the ads are closer to what they’re looking for than the site itself.

    Sites with a strong readership, but few random searchers will do badly with Adsense. So ideally you want a good topic, good traffic, and good SEO so that you come up in lots of searches.

    Guy’s random topics probably work against him in searches as well as in Adsense ad selection. I love the site, but it’s not an ideal candidate for Adsense. (In Guy’s position, with the reputation he has and the traffic, he’d probably be much better off signing up a few sponsors directly.)

  25. […] The bottom line though is to branch out to multiple ad sources and revenue streams as Darren Rowse, John Chow, myself, and others have suggested. It’s the best way to grow revenue, and not have all your eggs in one basket. Related Posts: […]

  26. […] Darren Rowse wrote Does adsense suck for bloggers?. Others talking on the same subject are Touchstoneelive, Chris, Chris again, Guy Kawasaki, Nik, Yaro. […]

  27. sirjesse says: 01/09/2007 at 4:11 am

    What you have written about the adsence advertising is right on the money. However, I have found a guy named Jason Ryan Isaksen that has some back door techniques to adsence as well as other marketing strategies that seem to put the odds in the favor of the individual marketer. I am currently testing out some of these techniques of Jason Ryan Isaksen right now, and so far most of my advertising attemps are doing well, as far as the ROI when it comes to my campaigns. I am very optimistic about the possabilities of adsence at the moment but Jason Ryan Isaksens strategies and techniques seem to be helping very much. Have you ever heard of this person, Jason Ryan Isaksen or any of his books? Right now this all seems too good to be true, and you know what they say about that. I would like to hear some feedback from you on this topic.


  28. My own case must be weird, since I have pretty good CTR and CPM; my problem is a lack of traffic. I’m pretty sure that if I had 10 times the traffic, I’d have 10 times the money, which would already be pretty good… However, the topics I write about (even though I have several blogs) don’t tend to be good linkbaits, and I only get about 300 unique visits per day on my most successful blog. :(

    Maybe I should start another one, though I already write about the subjects I really enjoy…

  29. Bad… in one my blogs, i always get the hurricane advert and other non relevant “blogging” adverts, whenever I log in from a computer which had not accessed my site before. However, on my own PC i see nice adverts.

    I wonder why is there a difference. Same blog-different computer, different ads.

    Could anyone enlighten me?

  30. I also believe that Guy’s topic and his tech savvy audience contribute to the fact that he doesn’t make a lot of Adsense revenue. I have experimented with two blogs: one of them is an internet marketing blog and the other one is a product blog about one specific model of car. Both are hosted in Blogger, use the same template and have the same style of Adsense ads in the same positions of the page. However, click through rates in the car blog are three times as high as in the internet marketing blog. CPM is eight times higher in the car blog! So, topic and audience matters…While Adsense is far from the ideal vehicle to generate revenue, we can’t generalize. Some blogs will always make more money than others.

  31. […] Darren Rowse has a great followup to Guy Kawasaki’s post about Adsense on Blogs. Problogger asks the question Does Adsense suck for bloggers? […]

  32. […] Nevertheless, Bloggers can make a profit with their blogs, they just need to expand and think of all the other opportunities they have, CPM ads are nothing but just one option. Problogger has an excellent post on this subject. While you’re there you might also want to read their “Does AdSense Suck for Bloggers?” post. […]

  33. […] At least, that is what Problogger said, a couple of days back. […]

  34. I don’t make much from AdSense on my blog. But my blog gives me a platform to advertise other sites, programs and products which do make some money on the side.
    AdSense ads have become expected. When I visit a well written blog or website and do not see AdSense ads I find it odd. I wonder what is the owner/operator’s motivation for not having AdSense or another type of contextual ad program running.

  35. Martin, thanks for answering my question. I appreciate it.

  36. Alberto says: 01/13/2007 at 8:25 am

    I tought about posting this to your blog:


    Its an internet businnes apart from ad sense :D

    Thnx gl!

  37. To answer fmsra’s question: Some context-sensitive ad servers are influenced by browsing history, which is presumably stored in cookies. So yes, you will see different ads from different PCs.

    My point: IMHO, there are two good reasons for having multiple potential revenue sources on your blog. First, if one of your sponsors finds a spurious excuse not to pay up, the amount in question probably won’t be worth suing for! Diversity is your only real protection against breaches of contract. Second, the only sure way to tell which sources are most lucrative on *your* blog is to try them out. Start with two or three; run them for a while; replace the inferior performer(s); and repeat. If one source never reaches the payment threshold because you’ve found a better one, so be it.

  38. Right as usual. It is the same with publishing a magazine. If you write about everything for everybody it is harder to have a good target audience than finding a niche and focusing on it.

  39. […] 3. Does AdSense suck for bloggers? […]

  40. […] Darren mentioned this the other day, and it’s taken me this long to have a look at Nik Cubrilovic’s original post. […]

  41. […] Are Adsense Ads Sucking On Your Blog? Thinking about using Adsense for income on your blog? Or frustrated with your lack of adequate income from your Adsense ads? Check out ProBlogger’s article, “Does AdSense Suck for Bloggers?“, for a very good perspective on how to make money with your blogs and other steps you can take to increase your blogging income indirectly. […]

  42. No not really adsense doesn’t suck on your blog if you create a blog with the right keywords.
    SO get a list here http://rich-ads.blogspot.com
    and create good blogs

  43. […] Many are saying Guy’s low numbers are explainable by bad ad placement, that Google AdSense is lame, or that Guy should have made money elsewhere, but I think the real ten foot furry elephant in the room is that some can’t afford to lose faith in advertising as a business model. It’s the primary revenue stream for many Web 2.0 startups such as digg. […]

  44. […] Does AdSense Suck for Bloggers? – Useful article for bloggers. […]

  45. I am Not getting paid for alot of clicks on adsense I do not know why, they are not public service or filler ads. Could someone tell me where I could read more on why this is?

  46. outnout says: 06/22/2007 at 4:47 am

    adsense sucks moment you start earning in dollars and not in cents per day. google simply blocks your account giving one crappy reason and its one way decision. pleading your case is useless.

  47. […] I just found another article, this one by Darren Rowse about options for bloggers aside from Adsense.  Another one worth passing […]

  48. Yeah it means a lot if you write specific topics..in a week and place your adds properly for high CTR…..I havent found another program which pays more than adsense

    But earning depends upon your content….

  49. I’m a little late on this topic, but anyway… actually it’s real simple, you’re not going to make alot of money with Adsense if your audience are people who are familar with internet marketing 99.9% of the time; they know when they click on those ads someone else is going to making the sweet cheddar. If you target people who have no idea what internet marketing or what Adsense is for that matter – that’s where you start making money. If you buy advertising for your blog and use keywords that only trigger queries from people who are new to the world of online money making for example- you will notice a big difference.

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